dotfiles for the public

An Essential Introduction to powering up your machine

May 21 2015
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Your dotfiles will help you create powerful and consistent shell shortcuts and functions, settings for your editors, color coding and layouts for your shell, preferences and authentication for ssh and mysql and other protocols, and more

What are Dotfiles?

If you’re not familiar with the concept of dotfiles, check out Github’s dotfiles page to learn more about them. Essentially, when someone says “dotfiles” they mean maintaining your command-line preferences in a Git repository (sort of like how I use Dropbox to manage my preference files for TextExpander, etc.) that you install on every computer.

The name dotfiles refers to the fact that most of the files that perform this sort of configuration start with a dot. The Zsh configuration file, for example, is .zshrc The SSH configuration folder is .ssh And so on. So the concept of “dotfiles” just means “versioning your configuration files.”

Your dotfiles will help you create powerful and consistent shell shortcuts and functions, settings for your editors, color coding and layouts for your shell, preferences and authentication for ssh and mysql and other protocols, and more.

Warning: If you want to give these dotfiles a try, you should first fork this repository, review the code, and remove things you don’t want or need. Don’t blindly use my settings unless you know what that entails. Use at your own risk!

Superhero Dotfiles and Their Super Powers

Dotfiles are split into two main types. Those that contain a set of commands and only run once, .osx for example runs a list of commands and gives OS X super powers. Other files such as .bash_profile and .bashrc run each time you open a new Terminal session and gives your Terminal super powers.

Here’s a run down of the dotfiles in my repo and a description of what they can do.

.bash_profile / .bashrc

When you open a new Terminal session, this file is loaded by Bash. It loads in the other dotfiles path,bash_prompt,exports,aliases,functions,extra and configures some useful settings such as auto correcting typos when using cd completion.

In some instances .bashrc can be loaded, so this file makes sure that .bash_profile is called.


This file speeds up the process of running executable files. Rather than having to cd back and forth across various paths to executable files, you can set the file paths in your .path dotilfe and then run executable files directly.

Generally, this file isn’t held in the public repo as it can contain sensitive information.

Here’s an example ~/.path file that adds ~/utils to the $PATH: export PATH="$HOME/utils:$PATH"`


Using this file you can customise and set the various colors of your Bash prompt.


Sets environment variables, such as setting Vim as the default editor using export EDITOR="sublime" It also increases the amount of history saved, useful for backtracking over previous commands you’ve used.


This file contains useful aliases to help you write less. For example, instead of typing cd .. you can set it here to be ‘..’. Starting to like these files yet?


Similar to aliases, except functions can take arguments.

Before when I mentioned I was looking over different dotfile repos, I did mkdir to create a directory. After that, I’d then need to cd into that directory.


This file is only used by Git, for example, when a git command is invoked. So although there’s an .aliases file, those aliases are run directly.


Set files that you’d like Git to ignore on the entire system. Yay, no more .DS_Store being accidentally committed!


A small file that improves readability for gvim.


Simliar to .gitignore for Mercurial.


In some instances, for example, when you ssh into a machine, you may be presented with a message. It might look something like this:

                                  | |
 _ __ ___  _   _    ___ ___   ___ | |  ___  ___ _ ____   _____ _ __
| '_ ` _ \| | | |  / __/ _ \ / _ \| | / __|/ _ \ '__\ \ / / _ \ '__|
| | | | | | |_| | | (_| (_) | (_) | | \__ \  __/ |   \ V /  __/ |
|_| |_| |_|\__, |  \___\___/ \___/|_| |___/\___|_|    \_/ \___|_|
            __/ |
Welcome to my cool server.
Any malicious and/or unauthorized activity is strictly forbidden.
All activity may be logged.

This file prevents this from being shown.


Configures the ‘Readline environment’. This controls the way keys work when you’re entering a command into your shell. An example of how I find this useful is to make tab autocomplete regardless of filename case:

set completion-ignore-case on


This is my favorite of all the dotfiles. It is run once, manually, for the commands to run and take effect. Depending on what you’ve added to this file, you may need to restart your machine.

Some of the awesome things I love are:

  • Disable the “Are you sure you want to open this application?” dialog
  • Check for software updates daily, not just once per week
  • Disable Notification Center and remove the menu bar icon
  • Enable access for assistive devices
  • Set a blazingly fast keyboard repeat rate
  • Finder: allow quitting via ⌘ + Q doing so will also hide desktop icons
  • When performing a search, search the current folder by default
  • Speed up Mission Control animations


If you use screen, this removes the startup message.


I’m not that familiar with vim. However some of the things you can do with this file include enabling line numbers and adding syntax highlighting.

For vim i have also included the powerline visual styling which will include a status line.

Important Notes

  • I haven’t included powerline in my main installation script, so if you wish to have it, then please proceed with installing it separately with the fonts dependency.
  • The --user parameter should be removed if you got an error while installation especially if you have python installed via Homebrew.
  • A dependency is the powerline fonts pack. Installation instructions can be found directly in the repository.

after installing powerline enable it by adding to the .vimrc:

set rtp+=/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/powerline/bindings/vim

This can be change depending on the path to the python directory


If you use wget, this adds additional settings such as changing the timeout to 60 seconds rather than the default 15 minutes. It also sets the retry to three, rather than the default 20!

Getting Started

If you notice, some files that have mentioned above don’t exist in this repo. This is because i am using the amazing bash-it repo to organize those dotfiles. I recommend you head overthere and read how to use them.d

Installing the Scripts

For installing the above files outside of the workflow mentioned in the main configurations, you need to run the following command sh The command will symlink all the files in this directory into your home directory, overwriting existing files.

Sensible OS X defaults

When setting up a new Mac, you may want to set some sensible OS X defaults:


Install Homebrew formulae

When setting up a new Mac, you may want to install some common Homebrew formulae (after installing Homebrew, of course). brew bundle has been deprecated, thus i converted the files into executable shell ones:

brew install ~/

you can always remove or add files based on yor preferences. You can search for brew formulas here in order to add or get more information about the ones I am using.

My file contains the following brew formulas:

  • Core Modules coreutils, moreutils, findutils, binutils
  • Bash, Bash plugins bash, bash-completion, zsh, grc
  • Development git, heroku, node, mercurial, iojs
  • Git speific addons git-extras, hub, bfg
  • Utilities htop-osx, id3tool, lesspipe, ssh-copy-id, the_silver_searcher, tree, fcrackzip, foremost, ack, p7zip, pigz, pv, gnu-sed, vim, wget
  • Network tools dns2tcp, knock, rename, webkit2png
  • Dupes grep, screen

Install native apps with brew cask

You could also install native apps with brew cask:

brew install ~/

you can always remove or add files based on yor preferences. You can search for cask formulas here in order to add or get more information about the ones I am using.

My cask file contains the following applications:

  • Utilities path-finder, alfred, cakebrew, a-better-finder-rename, fastscripts, bettertouchtool, iterm2, launchrocket, gyazo, ubersicht, dockmod, liteicon, cleanmymac, bartender, flexiglass
  • Productivity todoist, evernote, mendeley-desktop, fantastical, slack, screenhero
  • Development sublime-text3, atom, sourcetree, github, brackets, coda, tower, transmission-remote-gui, macvim, sqlite-database-browser, lightpaper,
  • codebox, anvil, hex-fiend, ksdiff, codekit, MAMP
  • Internet, Networking firefox, google-chrome, charles, dropbox, google-drive, mailbox, viber, utorrent, plex-media-server
  • Misc vlc, imagealpha, imageoptim, steam, the-unarchiver, spotify, handbrake
  • Quick Look plugins betterzipql, qlcolorcode, qlmarkdown, qlprettypatch, qlstephen, quicklook-csv, quicklook-json, quicknfo, suspicious-package, webp-quicklook
  • Color pickers colorpicker-developer, colorpicker-skalacolo

Install NPM Globals

There are a bunch of useful Node.js command line tools that can be installed globally. For that, the file define an array of those applications. My global npm packages are:

  • amok: A free open source, editor agnostic, cross-platform command line tool for fast incremental development, testing and debugging in web browsers
  • bower: Bower offers a generic, unopinionated solution to the problem of front-end package management, while exposing the package dependency model via an API that can be consumed by a more opinionated build stack
  • caniuse: Compatibility validation for support of HTML5, CSS3, SVG and more in desktop and mobile browsers
  • eslint: ESLint is a tool for identifying and reporting on patterns found in ECMAScript/JavaScript code
  • grunt: The JavaScript Task Runner
  • imageoptim: Node.js wrapper for some images compression algorithms
  • jscs: JavaScript Code Style
  • mocha: Simple, flexible, fun test fr**amework
  • nodemon: Nodemon will watch the files in the directory in which nodemon was started, and if any files change, nodemon will automatically restart your node application.
  • prettyjson: Package for formatting JSON data in a coloured YAML-style, perfect for CLI output
  • psi: PageSpeed Insights with reporting
  • should: Should is an expressive, readable, framework-agnostic assertion library. The main goals of this library are to be expressive and to be helpful. It keeps your test code clean, and your error messages helpful.
  • slap: Slap is a Sublime-like terminal-based text editor that strives to make editing from the terminal easier
  • sparkly: Generate sparklines
  • tmi: Find out the image weight in your pages, compare to the BigQuery quantiles and discover what images you can optimize further
  • vtop: A graphical activity monitor for the command line



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